Originally published on SongTown Talk newsletter in February 2016. SongTownUSA©2016.
Occupation: Musician, All Around Farm Hand
Location: Nashville, TN
Birthplace: Somerset, KY
“Runnin’ Into You” by TOWNE (Games We Play EP)
|Good morning, Jon! You Devious Angel, you…
Morning to you too, Karen! Thanks for having me. Our duo actually just changed our name to TOWNE—but I don’t mind still getting called a devious angel. It’s still pretty accurate.
What’s an “all around farm hand” doing in Nashville?
As an “all around farm hand” in Nashville, I’m trying to write and record great songs so I don’t have to be an “all around farm hand” anymore. It keeps the lights on, and honestly, I’ve really been fortunate to get the opportunity to make money doing work that is more physically than mentally straining. I can’t tell you how many songs have been started or finished riding in circles on a mower or chainsawing a tree.
When did you start your journey as a songwriter?
I started writing with the purpose of doing it professionally around 6 or 7 years ago. For the longest time, though, it never really occurred to me to write songs. I actually have Bob Ferrari, the drummer in my old rock band, to thank for even getting me into it. We’d decided to start a country band as a side project to keep us busy when our other band wasn’t on tour, and he was like, “Cool. let’s do this. First, you’ve gotta write some songs.” Looking back, I’m amazed that that had never occurred to me before. So, I hate to be super lame and cliche, but I feel like I definitely didn’t go looking for songwriting. It just sorta found me.
How did you find SongTown?
Back in 2010, I got accepted to Skip Ewing’s “Horse and Writer” seminar out in Wyoming, and Clay was one of the pro-writers/camp counselors/tequila aficionados. He was one of several lifelong friends I made out there. So, when I heard he was starting a website I thought, “Sweet, I need to check it out.”
By the way, last year I took Marty’s “lyric” masterclass, and it was great. So nice to have deadlines to meet, and other writers to have to read your lyrics to.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about songwriting?
This shit’s hard! Ha! No, I think the biggest thing about songwriting that I’ve learned is an ever-deepening appreciation for the craft, and the writers I admire. Like, listening back to some of my favorite songs of all time and hearing how SIMPLE they are, and knowing how difficult it is to make language and melody flow so effortlessly—I mean, I could go on and on and on, but I’ll spare you.
We all share the obsession! Was there a moment when it started to click?
Songwriting clicked for me the first time I gave it a go, and it’s because I wrote so fearlessly. I didn’t know there were any rules to break, so I never paid attention to any. Then, like anything else you do for long enough, I started learning, which led to rules, which led to over-thinking, which led to second guessing, which led to self-doubt, which led to feeling like nothing clicked at all. But, I’m a Taurus, so I kept at it, and I’m finally rounding the backstretch of all that middle stage, and things are really starting to “click” again: writing fearlessly and back to not paying attention to any so-called “rules.” The difference, I think, is now they’re kind of second nature, so I’m unknowingly always using them as guides.
Wait, did I even answer the question?
Perfectly! Who is your musical hero?
How much time you got? Hmm…lets see, this answer changes as often as “What’s your favorite song?” Today, we’ll go with Tom Petty. Great songwriter. Doesn’t take shit from anyone. And, the “Runnin Down a Dream” documentary is the Shawshank Redemption of documentaries.
I love the vibe of your songs. You’ve had one land on an interesting project. Tell me about that song.
Thanks so much. I appreciate you saying that. You must be talking about “What a Woman Wants to Hear” on Anderson East’s record. Yeah, Anderson and I had been wanting to write for a while. Our schedules just weren’t cooperating, but eventually we got a day and did. Since I didn’t know when or if we’d have another chance to write—and I knew he was in the middle of making a record with Dave Cobb—I really wanted to bring in an idea that stood out. It just so happened that Songtown’s Facebook post that morning said something to the effect of “write what the artist doesn’t have.” Pretty common knowledge, but the timing of the reminder could not have been more perfect. Luckily, I’d already heard several cuts from the record he was working on, so I knew what he already had. So, when we met up and sat down, I said, “Man, you’re a helluva singer and women are in love with ya. We need to write a song for them. Something that tells ’em exactly what they want to hear—in fact, let’s write that: ‘What a Woman Wants to Hear.'”
So, that’s pretty much how it happened. Got lucky that day.
What’s next on the horizon?
TOWNE is releasing a 5 song EP in March and hitting the road is all I know for sure. Can’t wait for the unexpected surprises though—those are my favorite.
Thanks so much, Karen.
What the other half of TOWNE Steevie Steeves says…
How did you and Jon meet?
In the mountains of Wyoming riding horses! I, too, was accepted to attend Skip Ewing’s Horse and Writer retreat. As fate would have it, Jon and I clicked immediately. I remember feeling like I had known him my whole life by the end of that week on the ranch. We were both shocked and thrilled to learn we lived a street away from each other back in Nashville. It still blows my mind that we lived right next to each other, but never met! We naturally started writing together…He’s my best friend today. Crazy!
I hear you have a new EP dropping soon.
Yes! Over the years, we developed a sound together that is very special and unique. Our EP will surely give listeners a taste of what we sound like when we combine. The lyrical content is personal. It came from a real place. I am so damn excited to introduce TOWNE to any willing listener! The EP “Games We Play” commin’ atchya in March!!
If you had three words to describe Jon.
Witty, honest, determined, clumsy, intelligent, big-hearted….Oh wait, only three words? Any three of those will work!
Three words to describe TOWNE.
Heartfelt, Harmonious, and Hormonal! Haha! I’d say that’s pretty accurate!
Find TOWNE’s Music & Gigs: www.TowneMusic.com